This Friday, Nevada High School boys’ golf coach Ryan Brown will be honored as the 3A Golf Coach of the Year by the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
One of those attending the event with him will be his assistant coach, Jim Kieffer, who has been assisting with the boys’ program for the past four years and couldn’t be more happy for Brown.
“Coach Brown is amazing with the kids, both in the classroom and out,” Kieffer said.
Brown has been a science teacher at Nevada High School since 2003, and coached football for several years, before taking over boys’ golf in spring 2006. He’s had some conference championship teams, state golf teams (2010, 2011 and 2018) and individual state golf qualifiers (Colynn Black in 2013 and Dylan Sporrer in 2017) during his time at Nevada.
“He is an amazing coach and friend,” said Kieffer, who has been involved with Nevada’s golf programs for eight years, first with the girls’ golf team. “I love the fact that I get to work with kids on a daily basis,” Kieffer said, and he added that working alongside Brown, seeing how Brown is with the kids, “makes me want to be a better person.”
One thing Kieffer sees in Brown is a coach who always knows when he needs to step in and help the boys, whether it’s at practice or at a meet. “He is a coach when he needs to be and a friend when you need one the most.”
Zachary Hansen, now a senior member of the Central College golf team, golfed for Coach Brown in high school at Nevada. He experienced the connection that Brown develops with his players. “Everything he did was always in the best interest of the team … he wanted the players’ feedback … (and he) kept things in perspective.”
Hansen said one of the biggest lessons Brown taught him is to keep things simple. “That was the key. He always told us that ‘par is sexy,’ and I still think about that when playing college golf.”
Jake Crowley, a 2011 graduate of Nevada, said Brown was one of the best coaches he had a privilege of working with during high school. “Golf is a pretty unique thing to coach because it is obviously an individual sport. But he made us realize how important each and every person on the team was to being a successful team. He made a group of friends that grew up playing golf in the summers realize how good we could potentially be before we had really even considered it as anything more than a hobby,” Crowley said. “He also played a big role in growing the youth programs in Nevada and getting more and more people interested in golf at an early age.”
Crowley said one of the things he appreciated most about Brown’s coaching abilities was his way of keeping golfers focused. “We had a pretty talented group and sometimes took practices for granted, but he always found new challenges and goals to give us that kept us focused on getting better because he knew how good we could be.”
Crowley appreciated how Brown could impact everyone on the team, regardless of their skill levels. “He knew the technique and ways to fix certain swing flaws, but was probably just as good or even better at knowing how to keep everyone in the correct frame of mind in tournaments…”
Cam Shill, a former high school golfer who graduated in 2018, said he felt Brown was more than just a golf coach. “Not only did he teach me how to respect the game of golf or the right way to play, but that golf is not a game of perfect and neither is life. He impacted me on becoming a better person in the world and to always do your best. It was always a fun, enjoyable time playing for Coach Brown and learning things I will always remember.”
Current high school golfer, Harold Dobernecker, a junior, had a lot to share about the coach he is now working with as a new season of golf is set to begin.
One thing that is very meaningful to Dobernecker is that Brown is not only a great coach and teacher but also a believer in Jesus. Brown once joined Dobernecker and other students who are part of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the flag pole for an event that happens just once a year. “We get together … and pray for our school and other things we need,” Dobernecker said.
Dobernecker also likes that his golf experience at Nevada has included more than just golfing. The team has to read. “Last year was the book, ‘Golf is Not a Game of Perfect’ by Dr. Rob Rotella, and this year is ‘Why The Best Are the Best’ by Kevin Eastman. These books are about … effective ways to think and practice, how to be a good person and key components to being the best version of you. On days where the team can’t practice outside or just a day in seminar, Brown holds a book study where all varsity golfers are required to have read a part of the book and reflect to the team what they learned or thought.”
Like others, Nevada High School Athletic Director Dustin Smith said there are many great things he could say about Coach Brown and his abilities. “Golf coaching can sometimes be stigmatized as an ‘easy coaching gig.’ I mean, how hard can it be to hang out at a golf course all spring, isn’t that a lot of peoples’ dream?” Smith states. Then he continues. “Coach Brown takes the job very seriously every day and elevates his athletes to the next level. If you were to observe Coach Brown during practice or meet, he would be giving continuous feedback to his student-athletes, some of the feedback would be related to the game of golf and some related to growing up and becoming men.
“The professionalism Coach Brown brings to the golf team is elite and gives Nevada golf an edge when it comes to competition,” Smith said.
Not only is Brown a coach and teacher, but he is also a husband and father. He and his wife, Ashley, who teaches K-2 music at Gilbert and Kindermusik classes in Ames, have two children, both with March birthdays. Griffin just turned 9, and Willow will soon turn 6.
Kieffer’s own son, Jordan, who was lost far too soon, also golfed for Brown when he was in high school. “I lost my son about three years ago and made the decision to step down from coaching, as it brought back a lot of memories of being on the golf course with my son… and of my son playing for Coach Brown.” But after learning he was going to be a grandfather, Kieffer re-evaluated that decision. “I contacted Ryan and said, ‘I heard you might have an assistant golf coach position open’ and made the commitment that I was considering coaching again. Ryan told me that he already had a feeling that I would come back and had already turned my name in to the school board for approval. That really meant the world to me; it was like he was able to read something in me that I didn’t know I was feeling.”
Kieffer said, “I can’t think of someone more deserving of being chosen for this honor than Ryan. Ryan isn’t one for attention being pointed his way, he is always about the kids.”
Crowley, like all the others, is excited for Brown to receive the award. “Coach Brown was always an amazing role model to all of his students and players and I am really excited that he is being recognized for everything that he has done for all of us over the years.”